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What every Texas parent should know about paternity laws

Many people think that when a child is born the child's father is automatically granted legal parentage. Currently, Texas law does not extend legal rights to individuals claiming to be parents where paternity has not been established. This distinction may seem rather silly for many married couples, but establishing paternity of a child born to unmarried parents can sometimes be much more difficult.

For example, an unmarried mother who was maintaining multiple relationships may be uncertain as to the child's true parentage. Alternatively, an unwilling biological father may be reluctant to admit paternity in an attempt to avoid financial responsibilities.

Regardless of the motives, establishing paternity is important for several reasons:

-- Some diseases are hereditary. That means that they can be passed onto children genetically from their parents. From a medical perspective, knowledge of the parent's health histories can be important to the child's health. Understanding of a unique medical risk the child may be genetically predisposed to can prove beneficial to his or her health.

-- The state of Texas has an obligation to taxpayers to ensure that the biological parents of children are held responsible for supporting their children. Currently, the Texas Attorney General's office will automatically seek to establish paternity of children whenever caregivers attempt to receive state assistance on behalf of children with uncertain parentage.

-- Establishing paternity also cements a father's legal rights to his children. This does not automatically guarantee child custody or child visitation rights, but it is the first step for fathers who wish to enjoy those privileges.

Texas parents of children in which their paternity has not yet been established should know a few things. Our family court system is always going to consider what is in the best interests of your children when making determinations regarding your case. This applies whether you are currently fighting a court order for DNA testing or whether you are attempting to enforce a child support order against another parent. Your Texas family law attorney can assist you with protecting your rights and ensuring that your voice is heard.

Source: Texas Office of the Attorney General, "Establishing Paternity- Establishing Paternity is Important" Dec. 16, 2014

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